Reliable sources have informed The O’Zone that town councilor Laurent “Butch” McDonald has been offered the position of Fire Chief in the town of Monson.
The same sources report that as a condition of employment Mr. McDonald would be required to move to Monson before Christmas.
If these reports are accurate, it would create an opening on the Southbridge town council.
McDonald, 47, was picked over Monson Deputy Fire Chief Brian S. Harris, Belchertown Fire Department Capt. Craig Bodamer, and Fred Mitchell Jr., a deputy fire chief for the North Cumberland, R.I., fire district. The board held interviews two weeks ago.
The pay range for the position is $56,365 to $68,492.
McDonald is a certification program manager with the National Fire Protection Association in Quincy, a position he has held since 2007. Selectmen said his experience stood out. McDonald has been involved in fire services for more than 30 years.
"Given Mr. McDonald's resume and experience, I felt his background would bring a level of professionalism to the Fire Department, and help it go to the next level," Selectmen Chairman Edward A. Maia said.
Selectman Edward S. Harrison said while he thought all candidates were quailified, he said the board was seeking someone with a "long history of experience, especially in the area of management."
"It's not only the technical aspects of firefighting or emergency medical services, but it's a question of how you manage people," Harrison said.
Selectman Richard Smith said he thought the department would do well with any of the finalists, but given his education and experience, he also would choose McDonald.
Maia thanked all the applicants, and said if all four were rolled into one, they would have the "perfect fire chief, but unfortunately that's not possible." Harrison said he hopes that the decision is not interpreted as a negative reflection on anyone who applied.
After the meeting, McDonald said he is "very flattered and very grateful" to have been selected.
A Southbridge native, he said he plans to move to Monson, so that he can respond quickly to incidents, and is looking forward to being part of the community.
He said he especially was impressed with how town officials handled recovery efforts following the June 1, 2011 tornado. He hopes to start the position relatively soon.
McDonald's resume dates back to 1980, when he served as a Southbridge auxiliary firefighter. He also is a Holland volunteer firefighter, a position he said he will no longer continue.
He was Dudley's fire chief from 2004 to 2006, and spent from 2006 to 2007 as training director for the state Department of Fire Services. He retired from the U.S. Air Force Fire and Emergency Services in 2004, after 21 years. He has been an adjunct professor of fire science at Anna Maria College in Paxton for the past six years.
During his interview two weeks ago, McDonald told the selectmen, "I really miss being a small-town fire chief. That's where my heart's desire is."
Marshall L. Harris is serving as acting fire chief. He came out of retirement to lead the department after George L. Robichaud resigned as chief on June 30.
Town Administrator Gretchen E. Neggers said she hopes to have McDonald on board by the first of the year. The department has five full-timers, 45 call firefighters and one full-time clerk.